Little Rock – In 2013, Disability Rights Arkansas began investigating the Pea Ridge School District’s unlawful refusal to allow three school aged siblings, two of whom have disabilities, the ability to attend school. The students had been denied the right to attend the Pea Ridge Public School until documentation was provided that they were not HIV positive.
This month, the U.S. Department of Justice completed their investigation and found that Pea Ridge School District was in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public entities against qualified individuals with disabilities.
“The actions taken by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Pea Ridge School District and the work conducted by Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) will hopefully prevent this type of discrimination from happening again in the Pea Ridge School District and across the state,” says Tom Masseau, executive director of DRA. “The fact that the individuals had to endure such scrutiny from the school district, as well as the community, is outrageous. This type of discrimination not only violates the law but unjustly perpetuates stigma and fear against people with disabilities.”
Among three remedial measures imposed upon the Pea Ridge School District by the U.S. Department of Justice are the following:
- Revise school policies stating the school does not discriminate on the basis of disability, including HIV;
- Prohibit requests for HIV status or test results of any prospective student as a condition to receive services, programs, or activities through the school district;
- Requires district wide training to all employees on the ADA; and
- Pay compensatory damages to the family for injuries caused by the school district’s failure to comply with Title II.
While the U.S. Department of Justice was conducting their investigation into the violation of Title II of the ADA, DRA continued to advocate for the children to receive educational services to which they were entitled. DRA worked with the District and other parties to ensure that needed services were provided and that the children’s rights were protected.
DRA continues to investigate and advocate for individuals with disabilities who have been subjected to disability discrimination, including barriers that prevent access to services in reaction to medical conditions. DRA encourages individuals encountering this type of discrimination to contact DRA at 1.800.482.1174.
Disability Rights Arkansas,, Inc. (DRA) is the independent, private, nonprofit organization designated by the governor of Arkansas to implement the federally authorized protection and advocacy systems in Arkansas. DRA’s mission is to vigorously advocate for and enforce the legal rights of people with disabilities in Arkansas.